I recently had the opportunity to participate in a webinar with the Content Marketing Institute in which I outlined five challenges that content marketers face. I’d like to share those challenges again here in case you missed the webinar. While I’ll be the first to admit that some of the points that follow are more controversial than others, I think that they’re all becoming increasingly mainstream, and that they’re game-changing issues in terms of how content is being created.
I’ll tackle the first two challenges in this post and save the other three for a second post. If you’d like to watch to the actual webinar, you can access it online here.
1) Should everyone work for marketing?
One of the central tenants of content marketing is that you need to be in a relationship with your customers and prospects by regularly providing them with the content they need. Importantly, that content shouldn’t just come from marketing, but also from individuals and subject matter experts across your organization as well as from peers and related third parties.
Marketers who understand this have historically had a strong desire to get more content out to their prospects and customers. In fact, when the Content Marketing Institute asked marketers what their top priority was back in 2014, an overwhelming 64 percent of them indicated that it was producing enough content.
The unfortunate result of marketers’ desire to “feed the beast” has been an overwhelming deluge of all types of content, regardless of its quality. The reality, however, is that just having more content isn’t the key to successful content marketing. On the contrary, giving people too much content can be problematic because it can often result in a backlash.
Doug Kessler, the Co-founder and Creative Director at Velocity Partners, makes that very point in a now famous presentation called “Crap,” in which he explains that the biggest threat to content marketing is content marketing. In his presentation, Kessler makes a plea to content marketers to stop just blindly creating and soliciting huge amounts of content and instead focus on developing smaller amounts of higher quality content that’s better suited for reaching people.
Since then the content marketing industry has grown up a bit. Today’s marketers are looking more carefully to see what types of content they take rather than simply accept anything they’re given from across their company. In fact, in the 2015 version of the same Content Marketing Institute survey, respondents had made a major pivot, with 54 percent of respondents citing creating engaging content as their top priority.
So while content marketers may still want everyone to be a part of the marketing team, the reality is that they’re realizing that they need to be much more selective about who actually is and what content those people produce.
2)Does the customer journey have a finish line?
Marketers spend a lot of time talking about customer journeys, without always understanding where that journey leads to or ends. Instead, they often think about customer journeys in terms of the classic steps of a sales funnel, starting with awareness and progressing through to consideration and conversion.
While it’s true that you do need to provide prospects and customers with content at every stage of the customer journey, the reality is that the typical journey looks nothing like the funnels or straight lines we so often see them represented as. A much more accurate representation would be a messy, squiggly line that goes in lots of different directions.
As much as you’d like to think of a buyer’s journey as a beautiful diagram with an orderly progression to it, trying to plan for that is a loser’s game because it just doesn’t every actually work that way. Instead, you need to think of the buyer’s journey as being more chaotic and filled with different inflection points. Your job as a content marketer is to make sure that your customers and prospects bump into your content at those inflection points, and that your content engages them and encourages them to move in a specific direction.
One of the implications of all of this is that if you invest a lot of time and money creating great content before a sale, and then don’t do the same for the content used post-sale, you’re making a mistake. Consider Nikkon as an example. Prior to making a purchase prospects get beautiful content that’s glossy, shiny, and engaging. Yet as soon as they’ve made a purchase, they’re suddenly demoted to receiving content that’s dull and clunky, like a user’s manual that’s in black and white and written in a bunch of languages that they don’t even speak.
That’s a problem because, as many studies have shown, people look at the documentation before they buy a product. That means that technical documentation like users’ manuals have a role to play in the purchasing decision. That really changes the game in terms of having a connected customer journey and a unified content experience for your customers. The reality is that there is no end to the customer journey — you want your customers to not only become repeat customers but also advocates — which means that you need to provide them with a continuous flow of great content at every step along the way.
In my next post, I’ll dive into the three other content controversies I covered in the webinar, including the mega-trend toward more casual content, the importance of consistency in a world where everyone creates content, and the future of content marketing. If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll check it out.